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I used to believe that flying was fun. I remember being assisted by beautiful women in uniforms. It was like being waited on by occidental Geishas. They would hand out drinks, pillows, and hot towels. They would feed me gourmet meals while being forever cognizant of my need for comfort. Gosh, it used to really be fun to fly.
Of course, this was all before we had 9-11 crazies, explosive toothpaste, exploding shoes and underwear. In the old days we never heard of color-coded terror alerts, full body scanners, or hungry cash starved airlines.
I was asked to fly to Washington D. C. to attend a Leadership Conference. The purpose of my trip was to meet with my Congressional Delegation and convince them to continue to support our Natural Resource program.
I've done this before, and I figured that it would be "a piece of cake;" all I had to do was make an appointment with my Congress Critters and they would be delighted to hear me.
My flight was scheduled to leave at 6:15 AM. The airline requested that I get there at least two hours in advance, and be ready to board at least a half hour early.
No problem, I packed the night before. My shaving gear, tooth paste and liquids were all packed in my luggage. All I planned to take on the airplane was my small net book, Blackberry, and a light novel. I wore easy to remove shoes, and pants that did not require a belt. I felt prepared.
I left home at 3:00 AM; I arrived at the airport at 4:00 AM. I was on time when I approached the ticket desk to check my bag. For some reason, I was not able to print out a boarding pass. The lady at the counter smiled asked for my Identification and then told me to take my bag to the CTX luggage area for X Ray. She said that the airline would assign me a seat at my departure gate. I felt good; I had plenty of time and I knew in my heart that I would be able to proceed, past security, without any problems.
I approached security. A very large woman in a blue uniform loomed in front of me. She demanded to see my picture I.D. and a boarding pass. I showed her what I had and she scowled "You don't have a boarding pass, you can't proceed beyond this point without one."
"The ticket agent said that I had all that I needed, they would assign me a seat at the gate…"
The woman hovered over me. "I don't care what she said. You can not proceed beyond this point without a boarding pass!"
I made a quick retreat and headed back to the ticket counter. I did not bother to wait in line but pushed my way to the same person who gave me my papers.
"Just show them what I gave you. If they continue to give you trouble demand to see a supervisor." Instructed the airline ticket agent.
I headed back armed with newfound knowledge. The big lady was no longer there and a man glanced at my papers and waved me through.
I approached the scanner, removed my shoes, took off my coat, emptied my pockets, placed all electronics on the moving belt and walked through the metal detector.
No sound. I felt very pleased with myself.
A security man brought the scanning machine to a stop. "Someone has a pocket knife attached to their key chain." He shouted.
"Oh (Bad word)!" said I under my breath. My little Swiss knife… I could not help but feel dumb.
I have to admit that the security people were very nice about it. For only a mere $16.05, I was able to mail it back home.
I walked on to my gate and was able to secure an acceptable seat on my flight to Washington.
The flight was uneventful. I ordered the airlines fruit and cheese breakfast. It cost six bucks and consisted of three slices of cheese, three dried apricots, five grapes, and two packs of crackers. Not exactly a gourmet meal, or a bargain, but it was the best that I could get that morning.
I was pleased with my accommodations in Washington. I stayed at a nice hotel on Capitol Hill and my visits to both Congressional and Senatorial offices were satisfying. We had some very good meetings. They told me exactly what they thought I wanted to hear and I acted as if I believed them.
Three days later, I was ready to leave Washington D.C. and fly back to Portland, Oregon.
The Airport Shuttle was waiting for me at 3:40 AM. I arrived at the Washington National Airport shortly before 4:00 AM. I found myself first in line and the ticket counter was still closed.
The counter opened shortly after four. I carried my luggage over to be weighed and I showed my picture identification to the ticket agent.
The agent looked at my ticket, then looked again at my drivers license.
"I am sorry sir, but I can not allow you to board."
"Do you have any other identification?"
I showed her my military I.D.
"I am sorry, but I still can not allow you to board. Your name does not match the name on your ticket."
"WHAT?" I noticed that the name shown on my ticket was Bill Eagle. My personal identification all said William Eagle.
"Excuse me, but Bill is short for William." I stammered.
"I am sorry sir, but Homeland Security rules demand that the names match." Said the agent.
"I WANT A SUPERVISOR!"
Finally, after some wrangling, a great deal of anxiety and an extended conversation with her supervisor, I was finally allowed to proceed to my airplane.
Our world has changed. Trust me, flying is no longer fun.
My advice? Next time take the train.